Longtime Baltimore activist Marvin “Doc” Cheatham announced at a community event Sept. 24 that he is vying for one of three seats in the Maryland House of Delegates in Baltimore’s District 40.
The event, held at the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity House on Presbury Street, drew more than 100 people. The featured speaker for the event was civil rights activist and Sirius radio talk show host Joe “the Black Eagle” Madison. Another featured speaker was Erla McKinnon, 94, one of the matriarch’s of Baltimore’s Women Power, Inc. A civil rights leader for decades, McKinnon drew thunderous applause when she spoke after demanding to stand during her speech and walking to the microphone.
“She strongly endorsed my candidacy and said it was time for an improvement in our elected leadership,” Cheatham said. “They fell in love with her.”
Cheatham, 63, said he decided to make a run for state-wide office after moving back to Appleton Street, where he had been raised, from a home on Eutaw Street where he had lived for a number of years. He said he was concerned and heard from neighbors that they shared his feelings about the profusion of liquor stores, abandoned houses, buildings that had been burned out because of fires caused by drug users smoking in the structures and other community problems.
Residents of the area told him that they rarely saw their elected officials.
“They said the only time they would see the current representatives was when they would run for reelection,” he said.
Cheatham, who is married and has three grown children, said he has raised little money, but believes that his experience and commitment to public service in Baltimore make him a viable candidate. Retired from the federal government after 41 years, he has headed Baltimore’s branches of SCLC and the NAACP. Most recently, he served as the Baltimore chair of the Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network, he said. He has also served as the president of the Baltimore City Election Board.
He said his relationship with the public will stand him in good stead. As a candidate and later as a delegate, should his run be successful, he would maintain the same open door policy with his constituents as he has with his neighbors.
On the afternoon of Sept. 25, he sat on his front porch typing out labels to mail thank you notes to supporters and friends. He said people have reached out to him in recent weeks to share thoughts about the incidence of teen pregnancy, the local high school drop-out rate and what he called “violence on top of violence.”
He was urged to run because of his take-action reputation, he said.
“They kept knocking on my door,” he said. “They kept saying, ‘You need to run. You need to run.’ With plenty of people’s encouragement and neighbors being disenchanted, instead of looking for someone to run, I decided that I should run myself.”
Cheatham said he is running for the people of District 40, not against the three incumbents, whom he considers “friends, not enemies.” The district’s reps now include Frank M. Conaway, Jr. (D), Barbara A. Robinson (D) and Shawn Z. Tarrant (D). He is running as a Democrat. All three of the seats are up for grabs in the November 2014 election.
Cheatham said he is running on reputation, and know how.
“If you want an indication of what my level of commitment is, look at my record,” he said. “And, I’m retired. Most of the elected officials do it part time. And I’m a native of Baltimore, not an implant. I don’t have multiple residences. I live full time on Appleton Street. Anyone can knock on my door, pick up the phone or email me and know they will get an immediate response.”